Handmade 12-Signature Journal

It’s been a few months since I last made a journal. I kept wanting to get back to it, but starting a new job, trying to settle into it then facing the truth that it wasn’t working out left me tired, deflated and out of sorts.

Journal cover

Journal cover

Last month, I re-immersed myself in the crafting side of Youtube, specifically Johanna Clough’s channel. She is a talented young woman who makes journals and her technique videos are easy to follow. Also, she has a lovely, soothing voice which makes for relaxed watching.

After watching a few of her vids, I was fired up enough to get back to journal-making. And, this time, I was determined to tackle a 12-signature journal.

The first couple of journals I’d made, I’d contemplated a multi-signature one but didn’t think I could pull it off. This time, for whatever reason, I felt more confident I could.

With this journal, I wanted to only use what I already had and not buy anything to add to it. So, I went through my craft stuff and gathered my supplies. In the process, I had to admit I have way too much stuff! I can’t remember half of what I have. I need to get some serious re-sorting and rearranging done.

The style of journals that Johanna Clough makes is junk journals and that’s what I used as a jumping-off point. It’s called ‘junk’ because it’s basically made up of whatever ‘junk’ you may have lying around, like paper bags, old book pages, receipts, lists, envelopes… that sort of ‘junk’.

The pages I chose are mainly craft papers, whole pages and remnants; old book pages; old music sheets; tissue paper; envelopes; paper bags; even plastic bags fashioned into pockets.

One thing Johanna had said when showing one of the journals she’d made was she’d included some of her favourite papers, which meant she could see and experience them each time she used her journal. That really resonated with me. I have so many papers I’m reluctant to use because I love them so much and don’t want to part with them. Including them in a journal gives them purpose and means I can still enjoy them. So simple yet so effective.

Like the other 2 journals I made, the cover is made out of a cereal box. Because I like the colour of the inside of it, I decided to use that as the outer cover and not cover the whole thing. Where the box folds turned out to be ideal to use as the spine as 12 signatures of 6 pages each fit perfectly.

Cover - cut to size

Cover - cut to size

Following Johanna’s advice, for the first time ever, I reinforced the inside of the spine with a strip of fabric. I then covered the inside with pages from an old book. I like the discolouration, which gives it an aged look.

Cover - inside, spine reinforced with fabric

Cover - inside, spine reinforced with fabric

I then laid the pages and other bits out – differing sizes – and put them together in groups of six till I had 12 lots. I’d already trimmed them down to neaten the edges. Once I was happy with what I’d grouped together, I held them together with long paper clips. Johanna uses really long hair pins, which are much longer than paper clips; next time I’m in town, I’ll see if I can find any.

Different size pages before I’d grouped them into sets of 6

Different size pages before I’d grouped them into sets of 6

The part I find trickiest is the measuring. After what happened with the 2-signature journal – wonky signatures despite my measuring and re-measuring – I checked and double-checked umpteen times before I was happy to start marking the cover and the pages.

It’s awkward trying to explain how to measure and mark up the holes for the thread to tie the signatures to the cover. In this video, Johanna explains and demonstrates clearly.

Once I’d done what, for me, was the hardest part, I then concentrated on the cover. This was the first thing I’d made – journal, scrapbook, altered book – that didn’t have a theme. So, I had no clue what to put on the cover. I ended up going through old craft magazines, putting aside images that grabbed my attention, and then just chose one.

As I didn’t want to cover the whole area, I used tissue paper as a base for the image and glued more tissue paper on the back cover so I could stamp a pattern on it, the same pattern I use on all my creations.

I was really pleased with how the tissue paper turned out. After gluing it down, I coloured scrunched-up pieces of tissue paper with ink pads and dabbed them onto the tissue.

Back cover

Back cover

After attaching a couple of cut-to-size pieces on the top and bottom corners of the front cover, and stamping a corner pattern on the top and bottom corners of the back cover, I covered the whole thing with sealant.

Some people cover up the spine, so the thread doesn’t show but I don’t mind it. Then again, if they’d been all crooked and messy, I would have covered it! Using an eyelet hole-punch, I punched a hole about midway near the top, attached an eyelet and threaded through some ribbons. I then tied on a few bits – a pearly pink button, part of an old earring (which can’t be seen in the photo below but can be seen in the photo above of the back cover) and the old shed key.

Spine of journal

Spine of journal

I was a little nervous getting started, but I kept telling myself not to rush and just take it easy. I didn’t sew all the signatures on in one day. I did a few then put it aside and continued the following day. Eventually, I was done. And elated that I hadn’t messed up! All the signatures were on straight and, weirdly, I found it easier than the journals with 1 or 2 signatures.

To finish, I attached an eyelet on the front and back cover, so the journal can be tied closed with a ribbon. I don’t know if that’s the best closure as the ribbon has to be re-threaded through the eyelet each time the journal is used. I’ll see how it goes.

The cover
First page of first signature

First page of first signature

Completed journal pages
Completed journal pages
Thread attaching signature to cover

Thread attaching signature to cover

Part of an old L’Occitane paper bag

Part of an old L’Occitane paper bag

Completed journal pages
Page from an old fairy tale book with art by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. I adore their artwork.

Page from an old fairy tale book with art by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. I adore their artwork.

Page from an old travel magazine

Page from an old travel magazine

2 sheets of blue tissue paper, glued together to make them more robust

2 sheets of blue tissue paper, glued together to make them more robust

Completed journal pages
Part of a Cath Kidston plastic delivery bag. I taped the ends together and left the top ‘open’ to use as a pocket

Part of a Cath Kidston plastic delivery bag. I taped the ends together and left the top ‘open’ to use as a pocket

I’m convinced the reason this worked so well is because I took my time with it. Whenever I felt myself getting impatient with, for example, sewing the signatures on, I’d take a break for a few minutes or put it aside and return to it the next day. So long as I remember to do that, I’m confident journal-making will remain fun and something I do on a regular basis. I’m already planning on making one for my sister for her birthday.

Before I go, I found out a few days ago that Johanna has finally set up her website. If you love this style of journal-making, check out her website and, if you haven’t already, her Youtube channel. I promise you will not be disappointed.

'Seasons' Notebook

This is the second notebook I’ve made, and I’ve used my own photos taken over the years, which cover the different seasons.

‘Seasons’ notebook
Back cover

Like the previous one I made, the cover is, again, a cereal box cut to size and covered with gesso and then painted.

Cover prep
Painted cover

The paper I use is 200gsm, which is sturdier than standard copy paper. For extra pockets, I used 3 A5 envelopes with the ends sliced open and popped in 4 mini notebooks which I made up with index cards as pages.

Mini notebooks
Inside of mini notebook
Inside pages

After my last gaffe with the misaligned signatures, I decided to go with just the one signature. The only problem was, with the number of pages I had – 18 sheets of 200gsm and 3 envelopes – it was a bit of a struggle getting the needle through all the pages. Having said that, I quite like the one-signature look.

In total, there are 42 pages (including the 3 envelopes). The overall notebook measures 7.4” x 5.3” (about 18.8cm x 13.5cm), and the mini notebooks are 3.1” x 2.4” (about 7.7cm x 6cm).

Making Notebooks

I’ve decided to add another day to my blogging week, mainly for things like craft, music and fun stuff, kicking things off with notebooks.

Handmade notebook

Handmade notebook

Back cover

Back cover

There’s a huge plethora of notebooks and journals, especially junk journals, on places like ebay and Etsy, not to mention the countless number of videos on Youtube on how to make them.

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with notebooks. It used to be stationary in general. One of my earliest memories as a toddler is being mesmerised by a tin of brand-new colour pencils! My sister still occasionally reminds me of my constant refusal to let her use my colour pencils. And we’re talking well past toddler age here!

Nowadays, I can take or leave most stationery, but show me notebooks, and I am likely to cave and buy at least one. The boys have given up asking me if maybe I have too many. I think they’re tired of hearing me intone, “One can never have too many notebooks.”

A very small selection of my bought notebooks except the small one on the top of the pile, which is an earlier handmade attempt.

A very small selection of my bought notebooks except the small one on the top of the pile, which is an earlier handmade attempt.

The many talented people out there who make journals and notebooks, they either keep for themselves or sell, and they are gorgeous, filled with so many elements. I love those and would buy a shedload, but – and ain’t there always a ‘but’ – I know myself well enough to know I will not use them. Yes, I know I have notebooks from way back which I have yet to use, but I am getting better at, slowly but surely, using them.

I can think of at least two reasons why I wouldn’t use the handmade ones. Apart from the obvious use of paper, many have cloth elements including ribbons and lace, and the page sizes vary. Because of that, I know I, personally, would find them too distracting to write in. And because some are almost like works of art, I wouldn’t want to ‘mess’ them up by writing in them, if that makes sense.

So, as a writer with a notebook-obsession, I’ve decided to make my own notebooks, taking inspiration from what’s out there, but without the many diverse elements. Apart from being easier to write in, I know I won’t find them distracting and I won’t have any hang-ups about making a ‘mess’.

I bought the design elements for this notebook from a wonderful online shop called Creative Market. This particular design is called ‘Born to Be Wild’ by Veris Studio.

The cover is a cereal box, cut to size. I covered it with a couple of coats of gesso and left it to dry overnight, then dry painted over that.

Cereal box for notebook cover
 
Inside cereal box cover

I do not know how I managed to mess up sewing the signatures to the cover! I measured, checked at least twice, marked up the cover, checked again, but still managed to get it wrong. I must be growing up – instead of getting in a tizz, I had to laugh. It’s so ‘me’, it’s unbelievable!

Despite the wonky signatures, I’m pleased with my notebook. And I’m about to make another one, this time using my own photos covering the 4 seasons. I’ll post pictures of that one in a later post.